Cecelia Hayes, the director of equity, inclusion and social justice at the Evergreen School, is a first-time caucus-goer who’s caucusing for Hillary. She recently moved here from Chicago, and the differences are pretty visible, she says.
First of all, the neighborhood precincts in Chicago have a captain who makes the rounds and knocks on all the doors before the election. “And he knows everybody, and everybody’s business,” Hayes says. “I mean, Chicago is a machine town.”
But there’s an advantage to doing things the Washington caucus way, Hayes adds. There’s some chaos, which is interesting. “But quite frankly, it’s a refreshing change,” she tells me. She was skeptical about the voting-by-mail thing, but appreciates the opportunity to talk to neighbors she might never have otherwise known at the caucuses.
As for why she’s for Hillary, Hayes recalls what it was like in Chicago in 2008, when Obama won. “I was part of that wave of downright giddy optimism that encompassed Barack Obama’s ascendancy,” she says. “I was very much involved in the whole idea of the hope that he represented, the optimism that he represented, the even-handed collegiality he represented, and had a real hope that he would be able to work with his colleagues in Washington to make some substantive changes.”
“But after almost eight years of subtle and not-so-subtle racist behavior, micro-aggressions and macro-aggressions, disrespect, and plain old obstructionism, my hopes were very, sort of, blunted for any real progress that could be made,” Hayes continues. “Now if he, who is a constitutional law scholar, who by the way has still not managed to get the majority of his nominations for the courts confirmed because of this obstructionism; if he, who is a consensus builder, who is willing to go to the center of the road, cannot move a modestly progressive agenda? Please tell me how Bernie Sanders is going to do that from the FAR left of the left?”
Bernie Sanders may have some benefits because of his maleness and his white skin, Hayes says, but she’s skeptical.
What about the obstacles Hillary might face because of her gender?
“I’m not worried about that,” Hayes says. “One of the things she can do, and what she shows she can do, is perform the elements of masculinity that get her respect.”
ZOE GRIEDER, 23, AND MAEVE DWYER, 24
I meet Zoe Grieder and Maeve Dwyer as they're taking a selfie in the packed sunroom at the Garfield Community Center. When I ask Grieder, who is disabled and a first-time caucus-goer, what she thinks of the experience, she says that it was one of the most inaccessible events she'd ever seen.
"Also if there are any neurodivergent folks, autistic folks here, this is the worst possible experience," Grieder says.
Both Grieder and Dwyer are for Bernie, and they don't think their opinion will change. Grieder says she's horrified by the idea of Hillary—a "colonizing imperialist"—becoming president.
When I ask Grieder and Dwyer about Bernie's failure to mention transgender voters at his Seattle rally last night, Grieder says she is profoundly disappointed. But Dwyer (whose preferred pronoun is "they"), says that this did not change their preference for Bernie.
"I think it's important to recognize that presidential candidates aren't our saviors," Dwyer tells me.
"Supporting a candidate and voting for a candidate doesn't mean they've checked all the boxes," Dwyer continues. "And pretending that they are erases the chance to lobby them for more.”
RYAN RUELOS, 40
Ryan Ruelos was born and raised in Seattle, but this is his first time caucusing. He's for Bernie, but only marginally so. The pain of student loans and Bernie's message about economic justice resonates. Still, Ruelos would be happy if either candidate won the nomination.
That said, Ruelos's reasons for coming out to caucus are a little different than others I've heard here at the Garfield Community Center. He's an aspiring comic (and adult, he adds), and he's looking for material for his comedy class at Chicago's Second City.
"[Caucusing] feels very 18th century," Ruelos says. "I can't believe we're here doing this."
So what does Ruelos think we should be doing instead?
"Eating brunch," he says. "Eating brunch and filling [the form] out and dropping it in the mail and drinking brunch.”